ALL blind people in the UK can now be guided by others outside their household or support bubble.
The announcement for England comes after similar guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, following months of campaigning from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
The charity has been calling for clear confirmation of the ways that blind and partially sighted people can be guided safely during social distancing since lockdown began.
Holly Matthies, 38, who is registered blind and uses a cane, relied on her husband for guiding support prior to social distancing restrictions. She said: “My husband is more vulnerable to COVID, so he’s been shielding. I’m used to being able to get help from him when we’re out, and that’s the way that it’s been for the whole time that we’ve been together.
“Before we had access to priority shopping slots, I had to do all of the shopping, which I hadn’t done before, and I had real difficulties trying to distance from others and follow visual markers in shops.
“I’m still working, and my job requires me to work in person, so I’ve been walking in. That means I come into contact with people all the time. It’s a familiar route, so I can do it myself, but I worry about all the people I walk past.
“It’s nice to know that there’s now help available.”
Working with Guide Dogs and Thomas Pocklington Trust, RNIB has used the Government guidance to produce tailored advice for sighted people explaining how to help partially sighted people through guiding.
RNIB chair Eleanor Southwood said: “Restrictions introduced because of coronavirus have had a unique and disproportionate impact on blind and partially sighted people.
“For those who rely on being guided by others to get out, exercise or to carry out daily tasks, requirements to avoid close contact with people from outside their household has meant that their independence has been drastically reduced.
“For months we have been calling for official guidance on how blind and partially sighted people can be guided safely, through our World Upside Down campaign, and we’re pleased to see this being formally announced at last.
“Alongside the new information from Government, we’ve also produced practical advice on how blind and partially sighted people can be guided safely in different situations in line with their guidance. This can be found on our website.”
RNIB Helpline 0303 123 9999